According to its website and everything else the Internet knows about the NYC-based artist collective, Mr. GIF is the joint effort of two men named Jimmy Repeat and Mark Portillo. But when I asked, over Gchat, which of the two I was speaking with, my correspondent told me, very enigmatically, that he* had no idea what I was talking about.
"I don't know who that is. This is Mr. Gif," he said, before passing along his cell phone number (for me to use later tonight, if I need help crashing the Tumblr party).
Along with several other popular blogs tapped to collaborate with select designers, Mr. Gif has just released its contribution to Tumblr's NYFW initiative: a GIF series showcasing IMG's newcomer crop of models.
I spoke with one of them or both of them (or possibly an impersonator?) earlier this afternoon, about what it's like to do offbeat art projects for big corporate brands and whether or not the GIF is forever**.
theFashionSpot: Your IMG collaboration is mesmerizing.
Mr. Gif: Oh thanks. Glad you dig it. Did you see the whole set?
tFS: I think so, it's this?
MG: Yup yup. Its actually gonna be in a Milk Studio gallery tonight — there's a Tumblr photo gallery that starts at 5. This stuff will be up but a little different: it's going to be in 3D, so we'll be handing out special glasses.
tFS: The GIFs are already pretty creepy.
MG: Yah they are, ha. People say that a lot. We like creepy.
tFS: I like creepy too. Were you concerned with how IMG would respond to the creepiness?
MG: A little. They had some guidelines in the beginning of the process so we knew what we couldn't do. A lot of the girls (and boys) are very young and new in the industry, so that was one thing to keep in mind. But other than that, it was fun snapping all the GIFs and IMG has been pretty easy-peasy with everything.
tFS: And you just wrapped up another collaboration with Evian, right? Why do you think all these big brands want to sponsor weird art GIFs?
MG: It's great. Everyone needs GIFs. Well not everyone. There are just some brands that don't need GIFs. But the clients usually come to us just wanting GIFs with no real ideas, and that's when it works best. You get to build the idea from scratch and that is what we're always after.
tFS: GIFs have been having "a moment" for awhile now, do you think their popularity will ever decline?
MG: Maybe, who knows. We try not to think that far ahead. What we do know though, is the art of the repeating image will always be something. Especially since everyone literally carries a screen in their pocket these days. Just walk down Times Square and you'll notice how many static billboards they've replaced with screens. Right now all they throw into the screens are commercials on mute — a GIF would be much more effective. And neato.
(See all the Mr.Gif x IMG Models x Tumblr GIFs here.)
Update: Following a heated debate with my editor about whether it's pronounced 'gif' with a hard 'g' or 'jif' like the peanut butter, we asked Mr. Gif to share his expert opinion.
"We say, say it like you learned it. But the inventor says 'jif,'" he told us.
*One of those rare cases when assuming a male pronoun is justified.
**This interview has been edited for formatting and clarity.